academic writing as conversation


You’ll often hear that academic writing is entering a conversation. A journal article for example is an entry into an asynchronous conversation that has already been going on in the journal – or perhaps ought to have been going on – about a particular topic. Articles take turns in discussing the topic, each one referring back to  other papers to make sure that the reader understands the ongoing and cumulative nature of the discussion.

It’s helpful to think that a paper or chapter or book is also entering a conversation in its own right. And that’s a conversation with the reader. And just as in the paper by paper conversation, the writer has to make connections with what has gone before. (Apologies to all of the conversation analysts out there reading this – I am about to simplify and gloss over complexities.)

People who study conversations understand them as social –…

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